Biography of Nancy Susanna Hillman

This article profiles Mrs. Nancy Susanna Hillman, born on July 12, 1865, in Flatwoods, Wise County, Virginia. She received her education in local private schools and married Benjamin Franklin Hillman at the age of seventeen. The daughter of Francis Bonham Greear and a member of the Methodist Protestant Church, Mrs. Hillman descends from a blend of English and Scotch-Irish ancestry, evident in her familial heritage that includes the Bonhams, Stallards, and Greears. These lineages are associated with notable historical contributions and familial coats of arms from the British Isles. Mrs. Hillman’s life in Coeburn, Virginia, reflects her deep roots in this rich heritage, marked by her faith and the raising of five children, including Prof. James Noah Hillman, a prominent educator in Wise County.

Mrs. Nancy Susanna Hillman, of Coeburn, Virginia, was born at Flatwoods, Wise County, Virginia, on July 12, 1865, daughter of Francis Bonham Greear. Her mother’s maiden name was Stallard.

Mrs. Hillman was educated in local private schools, and at the age of seventeen married Benjamin Franklin Hillman, who was son of James Monroe and Elizabeth (Stallard) Hillman.

Mrs. Hillman’s father was a farmer and she married a farmer.

Her paternal grandfather was Noah Greear, who lived in Grayson County, was a large planter and the owner of numerous slaves.

Her marriage to Mr. Hillman was solemnized at Coeburn, Virginia, on January 16, 1883, and of this marriage there are five children.

The eldest is Prof. James Noah Hillman, a graduate of William and Mary College and now Superintendent of Schools for Wise County, Virginia. He is married and has two children, James Noah Hillman, Jr. and Pauline Elaine Hillman.

The second child, Bessie Bert Hillman, married L. B. Dingus and is now a widow with one child, Lora B. Dingus.

The remaining children are Charles Wesley Hillman, Etta Elizabeth Hillman, and Leslie Wise Hillman, all unmarried.

Mrs. Hillman is a member of the Methodist Protestant Church and pins her faith to “The Book” which is her preferred reading, above all else.

She comes of mixed English and Scotch-Irish stock. The Bonhams and Stallards being English, and the Greears of Scotch-Irish blood.

All three of these families are of good stock as proven by their right to use Coats of Arms in the old country, but it would perhaps be difficult to find three other families of equally good standing about which there is so little mention in public records.

The Bonham family is purely English; originated in Somersetshire, southwestern England, its branches spread thence to Essex, Hampshire and Ireland, with one located in 1601 at West-bury, County Buckingham, England. The coat armor of the family is of record. General Pinson Bonham, a notable English soldier, was of the family residing at Orsett House, Essex.

The first Bonham of record in America was George Bonham, who came over on the ship “Philip, ” June 20, 1635, and settled in Virginia. He was then 31 years old. Presumably he was the founder of the majority of the American Bonhams, as no other of the name appears until late in the eighteenth century when we find Hezekiah Bonham, 1782, who, with his ten children, resided in Hampshire County, Virginia. At the same time Aaron Bonham, also the father of the same number, was settled in Frederick County, Virginia. In 1790 Abraham Bonham, in Lincoln County, North Carolina, and James Bonham in Charleston, South Carolina, are among the heads of families entered in the first census.

The next record is that of the brilliant and heroic young colonel, James Butler Bonham, who fell by the side of Travis at the Alamo in 183G. Bonham could have escaped but refused to leave his countrymen to their fate and cut his way through the Mexican Army into the Alamo, where he met his death.

He belonged to the South Carolina family. A county was named for him in Texas and his memory tenderly cherished as one of the great heroes of Texas independence.

In 1819 we come upon R. C. Bonham, a vestryman of St. Matthew’s Parish, Wheeling, West Virginia, and associated with him on the Vestry was J. R. Greear, who was the father of the celebrated Episcopal Bishop, David H. Greer.

During our Civil War General Milledge L. Bonham, of South Carolina, was a gallant soldier, a Congressman, and Governor of South Carolina. He was a relative of Colonel Bonham of Texas fame.

The most ancient reference to this old English family is in the year 1386, when Nicholas Bonham, gentleman, was appointed: member of a commission to investigate the status of a valuable, Abbey, which with its lands had fallen into dispute.

Of the Stallard family, practically nothing is known. An English authority states that the name is derived from an Anglo-I Saxon word which meant “steward” and that it is one of those family names derived from an occupation. Another authority says it was derived from the occupation of the man who sold] “stalls” in the middle-age markets. The family Coat of Arms is described as follows:

Or, a fesse between three lions’ heads erased sable vulned in the neck gules.
Crest-A stork’s head, or.

No record is found as to when they came to Virginia, or America. Certainly they were in Virginia before the Revolution, because Randolph Stallard, credited to Culpeper County, is reported as serving first as ensign and later as lieutenant in the Revolutionary Army.

Beyond this no mention of the name appears in the large number of volumes and records investigated.

The Greears are of Highland Scotch stock, originally a sept of the Clan MacGregor. The old Scotch form of the name was Grier, still maintained by some families, though the majority now adhere to the form Greer.

One of these families moved from Scotland to Ireland probably in the sixteenth century and settled in County Tyrone, naming the home place Grange MacGregor. A branch of this family was located at Tullylogan, County Tyrone, and it is most probable that from thence came the progenitor of the Pennsylvania and Virginia Greers, while it is almost equally certain that the Carolina families are descended from those who came with the Colonists who emigrated to eastern North Carolina from Scotland after the fatal battle of Culloden in 1746. In the early records of Virginia immigrants appears the name of Thomas Grear as a settler in James City County in 1649. We do not come upon the name again until the Revolutionary period when the Roster of Virginia soldiers shows Charles Greer, as a surgeon’s mate in the Navy, and later as full surgeon.

James Greer was first lieutenant in a Bedford County Company, and must have been promoted, for in another place James Greer is mentioned as a captain, though in the later instance the name is spelled Grier. At that same period the Carolina Greers were doing battle for the patriot cause.

Alexander Greer was a gallant soldier under Col. John Sevier, and Benjamin Greer was an equally good man under Col. Benjamin Cleveland. Both of these were in the King’s Mountain Campaign. Alexander Greer long survived the Revolution, was a colonel of militia for many years and died in Tennessee in 1820.

Catherine Greer (evidently a widow) was the head of a family of nine in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, in 1782. The southwest Virginia family is the only known family now using the spelling “Greear” which gives rise to the opinion that this family is descended from Thomas Grear of 1640, in James City County. The spelling of names, however, has little significance, as our ancestors were notoriously careless in this respect.

The Pennsylvania family has given a justice to the United States Supreme Court in the person of Robert C. Grier.

Admiral James A. Greer was born in Ohio.

Bishop David H. Greer was born in Virginia.

There were eighteen Greer families in North Carolina in 1790, headed by Andrew, Ann, Bartley, Benjamin, Charly, George, James (2), John (4), Joshua, Jude, Matthew, Robert, Thomas (2).

In South Carolina were James (2), John (2), Robert and Solomon, while another James used the spelling Grier.

The old pioneer, who settled in what is now Greer County, Oklahoma (then supposed to be in Texas), is said to have been either a Virginian or North Carolinian. This county was the cause of one of the most noted lawsuits in our history, Texas claiming it, and the Federal Government resisting the claim on behalf of Oklahoma.


Wilson, Leonard, editor, Makers of America: biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life, vol 2, p. 85-88, Washington, D.C. : B.F. Johnson, 1916.

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